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Not In My Backyard, Not In Anyone's Backyard

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One of my friends spends a lot of time in Rome. She (Sophia) is also known amongst our friendship group for bursting into energetic Italian in mid conversation. When she mentioned recently that I check out an Italian documentary she's been helping to work on, I politely agreed to watch it.

The documentary, created by independent Italian director Marco Carlucci is a 90 minute documentary that highlights the risks incinerators pose both on our health and environment. This documentary seeks to put a graphic lens on the controversial question: "are incinerators harmful?" And if yes, then why on earth are there still incineration plants in Italy when the rest of the world have seeked alternative methods?

At first, I was dubious about how interesting this film was going to be. I mean, the documentaries I normally tune into on a Friday night are normally things like Dawn Porters 'Dawn Gets A Baby' or Mark Dolan's "The World's...and me". Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the environment, but could I really be enthused by an hour and half of Italian (and having to read subtitles) on this one subject? However, Carlucci instantly gets you hooked from his opening sequences. We are shown a series of interviews by important Italian politicians and businessmen - even scientists - who claim that incinerators aren't harmful to the environment or our health. Then we cut to scientists from all over the world - France, England, Italy, USA - who appear utterly exasperated by the falsity of these public claims.

Inspired by the waste crisis in Naples 2007, the film follows an exploration of the various treatments of waste and their consequences. Yet what is effective about the film is its incorporation of vital evidence from world renowned figures; from Stefano Montanari, the discoverer of nano-particles, to Paul Connett, the inventor of the 'Zero Waste' strategy. Carlucci contrasts these presentations of scientific evidence juxtaposed by the false claims made by key Italian politicians, emphasising the hypocrisy even further.

This sparked my curiosity. If scientific evidence strongly revealed incinerators to be dangerous, then why were governments still continuing to construct these incinerators, and why is nothing being done about it?

I've never been one of those enthralled by science, but the facts are laid out really clearly and often accompanied by typically Italian eye-catching images. I particularly liked the shots of scientist Stefano Montanari running marathons across fields of hay. At 60-odd-years-old (I guess?!), he made me feel really guilty as I sat watching the film with a glass of vino (Italian of course.. to fit with the mood!) and two bars of Dairy Milk.

I was consoled however, with feeling a little more enlightened on the subject with my newly-acquired knowledge after the film had ended. But I also felt worried, and I suppose that is where the film proves most successful. Incinerators burn waste, and in doing so, emit large quantities of tiny particles which then get absorbed into the bloodstream causing cancers, tumours, depression...and that's just to name a few. In fact, they are so dangerous they have been banned in Belgium and parts of France, and America hasn't been building them since 1996. To make matters even worse (as if they could get any worse), they cost tax-payers (that's us) ridiculous amounts of money... six times more than alternative methods.

Actually that's an aspect of the documentary I really appreciated - the fact that alternatives were both offered and shown as concrete possibilities. It's not an all-dreary film where we are told, 'oh, incinerators are so bad, waste will never get treated properly', and then closing with 'so that's all folks' end credits. We are taken by Carlucci to key cities like San Francisco, where high proportions of differentiated waste are being achieved, confirming that we really do have a choice. But we have to act now.

Filthy to the Core is not just a film; it's also a campaign. Supported by key environmental organisations such as Greenpeace Italy, FOE, No-Burn and GAIA Europe, as well as thousands of smaller groups, it possibly has the longest running film credits ever: over 35,000 people have contributed to the documentary in various shapes or forms.

The film is currently entertaining the festival market, and will enter distribution shortly after. To check the trailer out for yourself, visit the Youtube video here.

I really recommend taking a look - even if you're not into the environment, it still makes a gripping film. And if you get a chance to see the whole thing - do it! Do you really want to be Filthy to the Core?